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Episode 17-Yasushi Nakamura: The Shy Bassist with the Groove

Strictly Jazz Sounds

Release Date: 04/08/2024

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Yasushi Nakamura loves his music. And he truly loves laying down the groove lines behind a hot band like he does for almost a dozen bands. However, being one of today’s first-call bassists means frequent and long show tours that can take him away from his family of two-children and spouse for weeks, even months at a time. It has resulted in an impressive list and number of recordings made on both electric and acoustic or double bass.

Pianist and longtime friend, Emmet Cohen, says that Yasushi “…is known in the music community for playing in over a dozen bands and is hardly ever seen reading music.” The reason, says Yasushi, is he has a photographic memory for the music. He takes one look at it and the rest he recalls. This allows him to internalize the music, a practice he highly recommends to young bassists today.

Yasushi is a pretty shy guy on and off the bandstand. Watch a video of him and you’ll notice he kicks it like the good bassist he is but rarely engages in any dialogue. He says he likes to lay back, be the guy behind the sound. You wouldn’t know it, though, when it’s time for him to step out. Sometimes a big grin will shine, but Yasushi is mostly focused on delivering a ballad or driving his bass through the high pace sounds left behind by the pianist or the horns.

His discography is already enormous. Yasushi has performed in and out of the studio with many noted jazz musicians including Cecile McLorin Salvant, Emmet Cohen, Christian Sands, Amina Figarova, Shamie Royston, Jon Irabagon, Rudy Royston, Vincent Herring, and Ulysses Owners Jr. I saw Yasushi at the 2023 Monterey Jazz Festival touring concert at Denison University near Columbus, Ohio. In that show he was part of an all-star billing with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Lakecia Benjamin, and good friends and long-time collaborators, Christian Sands and Clarence Penn.

Yasushi Nakamura is sharing two compositions with the podcast so thanks to him for that. They are:“Yasugaloo”-A Lifetime Treasure, Yasushi Nakamura-bass, Lawrence Fields-piano, Clarence Penn-drums; 9/29/2016 (Atelier Sawano)-7:03“Awesome Beef”-Hometown, Yasushi Nakamura-bass, Lawrence Fields-piano, Clarence Penn-drums, Bigyuki-Synths; 11/10/2017 (Atelier Sawano)-3:56

This episode is being released during Jazz Appreciation Month. What better person and humbler guy than Yasushi Nakamura to kick off this year’s celebration of jazz. 

And thank you for listening to Strictly Jazz Sounds. Spread the word about this podcast and share it with others when you can. Finally, support live jazz wherever you are.

Photo by Stephen Braunginn